BAY MINETTE, Ala. (CBS/WKRG) The murder trial of former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine, who is accused of murdering his longtime mistress Angel Downs in May, entered its second week Monday with dueling medical examiners testifying about whether Downs' death was a homicide or a suicide.
Dr. Eugene Hart, the state medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Downs' body, testified that his initial opinion was that Angel Downs' death was a suicide, but acknowledged he could not rule out homicide so he wrote "undetermined" as the manner of death on his autopsy report, according to CBS affiliate WKRG.
Dr. Hart testified that Downs died from a "contact" gunshot wound, meaning the gun was pressed against her head when she was shot but pointed to the fact that the gun was found lying next to her body, which is typical in a suicide, the Mobile Press-Register reported.
"I can't prove that someone else didn't put the gun to Ms. Downs' head," Hart testified. "I can only say the findings are consistent with suicide."
Unsatisfied with the "inconclusive" ruling by Dr. Hart, District Attorney Judy Newcomb hired an independent forensic pathologist to take a second look. Dr. James Downs, no relationship to the victim, testified that based on his review of all of the state's evidence including Dr. Hart's autopsy report and photographs, he believes Angel Downs did not shoot herself, WKRG reported.
Dr. Downs, a Georgia state medical examiner, got down on the floor at one point during his testimony to show how he believes Downs was sitting when she was shot. Based on blood splatter on her left leg, Dr. Downs testified, Downs was sitting on the ground when she was shot and slumped forward, calling the close-range shot "game over" as she would have died instantly, according to the station.
Downs was found lying on her back in the driveway of her condominium with her hair fanned out and upward away from her head in what Dr. Downs called "an unnatural position."
"I would refer to it as partially staged," Dr. Downs testified, according to the Press-Register.
Dr. Downs testified that he believes that just after Downs was shot, someone at the scene pushed her over onto her back and dragged her a short distance down the driveway, pointing to abrasions on her back and damage to buttons on her clothes as evidence that the body was moved.
When asked by the defense how long it would take to stage a scene like that Dr. Downs answered, "It could be a fraction of a second. It literally could happen in the blink of an eye."
Nodine is also charged with stalking and with an ethics charge for misuse of his county-issued pickup truck.